With each club playing 46 league games, the NPower Championship is a long season. In order to fit the games in, there are several rounds of fixtures scheduled for midweek, with this week being the first. With games split over Tuesday and Wednesday night, three teams continued their perfect start, Nottingham Forest finally realised what that white thing is at the end of the pitch and the likes of Doncaster and Coventry continued to struggle.
These and more are featured in TheHardTackle’s Top 6 highlights from Round 3 of the Championship:-
1. Then there were Three..
For a trio of sides, the first three games have resulted in three wins. Southampton, Brighton and Derby all won impressively away from home again to maintain their perfect starts.
On Tuesday night, newly-promoted Saints kept up their 100% record intact with a brilliant 5-2 away win at Ipswich Town. Star striker Rickie Lambert got off the Championship mark with a brace of goals, with David Connolly’s third in three games giving the Saints a 3-0 half-time lead. After the break, Ipswich made a fight of it, hitting back through Keith Andrews and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. However, Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana, already spotted in Round 1 by TheHardTackle as one to watch, hit a late double to make the game safe.
Brighton travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium on Wednesday night and came away with an impressive 3-1 victory. Will Hoskins added to two Ashley Barnes strikes, before a late Peter Whittingham penalty reduced the arrears. After winning the League 1 title last year, manager Gus Poyet will be delighted with the Seagulls’ start.
Derby also continued their great run, as a Craig Bryson goal gave them a 1-0 victory away at ex-Premier League boys Blackpool. A scrappy game saw few chances until Bryson popped up to score from close range to give Derby their third win, whilst also ending Blackpool’s perfect start.
After each enjoying two victories on the road, all three teams are at home this weekend as they bid to make it four out of four!
2. Boro on the charge
Another team that have started well are Middlesbrough. Following relegation from the Premier League, Boro have lost their way over the last few seasons. With former playing legend Tony Mowbray now manager, the team appears transformed with a blend of youth and experience.
They started the season with a 2-2 home draw with Portsmouth, before a superb 1-0 victory at Leeds on Saturday. On Tuesday evening, they went a goal down at Barnsley, before running out 3-1 victors. Australian striker Scott MacDonald was the star of the show. He equalised, before turning provider to set-up midfielder Barry Robson for a tap-in.
A minute before half-time, MacDonald was at it again as his wonderful through-ball allowed striker Marvin Emnes to make it 3-1, with his third league goal of the season (sixth overall after a Carling Cup hat-trick versus Walsall).
3. Maynard shows Sven what he’s missing
Throughout the summer, there has been talk of Leicester City paying £5million for the services of Bristol City’s star striker Nicky Maynard. No deal has been struck, so Maynard has remained with the Robins.
On Wednesday night, Maynard finally made the trip to Leicester’s Walkers Stadium as his Bristol City team produced a wonderful team performance to win 2-1, their first victory of the new season.
Maynard played as if he had a point to prove, giving Bristol City the lead after only five minutes when he drilled a superb shot in off the woodwork. With City dominating, Maynard won his team a penalty in the 45th minute, but saw his effort agonisingly hit the crossbar. Leicester equalised 10 minutes into the second-half, but Maynard was not to be outdone. On 66 minutes, he dispossessed Leicester defender Sean St Ledger, before cutting inside and firing past keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The final whistle signalled a second successive home defeat for the Foxes. The performance of Maynard will increase Leicester’s effort to sign him, with Bristol City equally determined to keep hold of their prolific striker.
4. Forest finally score
After one point from the first two matches, no goals and more amazingly no shots on target, Tuesday night saw Nottingham Forest finally put the ball in the opposition’s net.
Surprisingly though, it didn’t come from a striker, despite Monday’s arrival of Ishmael Miller from West Brom. Instead the goal arrived courtesy of right-back Chris Gunter, who superbly headed a deep cross into the Doncaster net. The goal sees ex-England boss Steve McClaren finally get a win under his belt as Forest boss as he looks to guide them back to the Premier League.
5. Leeds off the mark
After two successive defeats, Leeds finally got off the mark on Tuesday as they hammered Hull City 4-1 at Elland Road. Ross McCormack gave the Whites the lead, before Leeds’ defender Tom Lees scored an own goal to level the scores. Shortly before the break, Lees made amends as he turned Ramon Nunez’ corner into the visitors’ net. Scottish International Robert Snodgrass hit a wonderful free-kick to make it 3-1, before winger Nunez rounded off the scoring with a neat finish.
6. Coventry and Doncaster struggle
The season hasn’t started well for Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers, as both sides are rooted to the foot of the table following three defeats from their opening three games.
After defeats to Leicester and Birmingham, Coventry travelled to London to face Crystal Palace. Entering stoppage time, the Sky Blues were 1-0 to the good thanks to Lukas Jutkiewicz goal. However, under Palace pressure City crumbled, with Sean Scannell netting an equaliser. Things went from bad to worse as in the fifth minute of added-on time, Palace striker Jermaine Easter hit his first goal of the season to condemn City to their 3rd straight loss, whilst moving Palace into 5th place.
Doncaster’s fortunes have been just as bad. They started the season well taking the lead against Brighton. However, their luck turned when star striker Billy Sharp was stretchered off. They went on to lose 2-1 to the Seagulls’, then followed it up with a home defeat to West Ham. On Tuesday night, another 1-0 defeat, this time to Nottingham Forest, meant a dreadful start to the Championship for Rovers.